Whether as a member of legendary 90s/2000s house duo Deep Dish or working as a solo producer, Yoshitoshi Recordings founder Sharam is both equally a beloved and often unknown name in the annals of local-to-internationally trending house music names. If a long-standing devotee of the sound, you know his pedigree, and Deep Dish’s huge international hits “Flashdance” and”Say Hello” are perpetual favorites. However, if new to dance, the veteran may be an unknown treasure. With an unerring desire to maintain sonic autonomy, he bucks trends and maintains his own lane, cultivating passionate respect and magical live experiences in sound. His ascension to a place where he frequently plays on the legendary isle of Ibiza has led to collaborations with pop trending dance neophytes like Shakira, Kid Cudi and Diddy, yet he changed very little conceptually in order to meld well with their styles.
2012 finds him yet again in the midst of yet another charge of the pop-dance light brigade, and his latest Yoshitoshi release, Night and Day finds him navigating new and strange dance territory with the greatest of ease. I had the opportunity to interview the legend about his latest album, playing Ibiza, pop’s current dalliance with electronic sounds and DC’s own re-ascendancy to dance prominence.
Your latest mixes, Night and Day are your interpretations of sounds you would typically select for sets at those times. Was releasing something like this commercially always an idea or did you just feel that it’s time had come?
I’ve always done these mixes, as I’m a music fan first and foremost. I enjoy blending sounds, and certain sounds fit earlier sets, while others work better late. I don’t believe in genres, and I try to not play any one style more than another, too. Each mix represents a different vibe. The “Day” mix is definitely much deeper and has a much more tech house oriented vibe. “Night” is different, as it focuses more on melodic vocals and good music. As well, one of the benefits of doing these mixes is that it has provided great clarity for my own productions.
Being a dance music industry veteran, I have to ask your thoughts about the music industry’s current love affair with dance music, and its potential effect on the future of the genre?
Well, people want good music, something unforgettable. The (mainstream) industry players though always pick sides. It’s kind of like a cult following, like, “this is what’s hot, so we all must do that!” Playing from the other side of that is definitely “not cool.” I’ve always felt that I’ve been someone to say that we (in the dance music industry) should say that we don’t all have to play the popular sounds. I think it’s important too for people in dance to maintain friendships with all sides, and let the quality of the sound itself decide whether something’s good or bad. Beatport rankings, top ten pop rankings, they don’t matter. At the end of the day, though, we have to realize that the industry doesn’t have a say, and while the DJ’s have a bit of a say, the ultimate vote goes to the fans.
Whenever pop trends towards dance, we see a re-interest in the (just off the coast of Spain) isle of Ibiza. You’ve played on that legendary island a number of times, and I note that many of your dates in support of the Night and Day release are there during their popular summer season. Thoughts about Ibiza for those who are unaware, and why is achieving success there so important?
Ibiza is Miami, the Winter Music Conference, all of that, extended over three months. New records that become international hits break there and become incredibly popular. I’m looking forward to going back, as I now have a bi-weekly residency at Space (Nightclub). Another great advantage is actually when I’m not playing. Whenever I have some time off over there, I always go to other clubs and hear what everyone else is playing. There’s so much new music and so many industry players over there. The energy is amazing.
With over 20 years in the industry, you’ve now seen three generations of new house fanatics who have experienced your sound for the first time. How would you describe a typical Sharam set to someone who was witnessing it for the first time?
I have two types of people who come out to hear me spin. There are those who know my history, and those who are following their friends’ advice for a great night out. I would actually not want to tell them what to expect. I do my thing. It’s hard to explain, but I will say it’s like going to an amusement park. You don’t just look at a ride to experience it, you get on and then you see what it feels like. I’m going to give you some smiles, take you through some bumps, some dark places, make you reflect…basically give you a soundtrack. I’d just hope that you feel the inspiration, and are being entertained while I educate you on great music.
Many state that they feel that access to digital technology has created an overabundance of DJs and producers at the sake of quality productions. Your thoughts about the latest generation and their rise?
In every generation, there’s an issue of the “old generation” against the kids, where the old generation asks ‘What are they doing?!?’ All these kids are just reinterpreting their inspirations. Of course, with so much of the dance that’s being made today becoming top 40, the quality is sadly often not the best. It’s inevitable and an ugly side of the music business. Executives find a sound people like, then find 100 producers to make 100 songs that sound exactly like that one. When that sound and song become unpopular, they find 100 more producers and 100 more songs. The dangerous part of that is that inevitably, there’s a pop and dance implosion, and then there’s nothing. DJing and producing has always been a battle of the strongest. Most producers and industry players are followers, not leaders. It’s like this. When Skrillex blew, executives all started looking for and signing the next producer making the Skrillex sound, and its bandwagon behavior like that which kills the genre. However, the one positive is that at the end of the day, people will always be into dance, so we all need to learn how to co-exist.
Once again, Washington, DC is in the throes of a major love affair with dance music. Your thoughts about DC, and as well what it takes to create a sustainable local dance community?
DC’s a really healthy scene right now, and has come a long way. The two biggest things that DC has going for it are ideas for any city to be successful. First, you need dedicated promoters and club owners who are invested in bringing a diversity of great acts to a city on a frequent basis. Second, the promoters and club owners have to be devoted to the experience. The sound system, visuals and lights must be top notch because they aid so much in creating the proper presentation of the DJ. DC has multiple places doing that, and is succeeding. Washington, DC has become a major stop for all acts. It’s a great thing for the local scene.
For more information on Sharam and Yoshitoshi Recordingss, visit twitter.com/yoshitoshi